NLC Offers Cities Help In Resolving Justice Reform Preemption

January 23, 2018 - (3 min read)

New Intergovernmental Policy Academy: Young Adults and the Justice System supports cities, along with county and state allies, to align policies and reduce the number of young adults unnecessarily and ineffectively jailed in your city.

NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) invites member cities to apply with a county partner to participate in the newly-formed Intergovernmental Policy Academy: Young Adults and the Justice System. City and county teams must come from one of 12 eligible states, including Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.

City leaders sometimes struggle to create effective local policy in the face of conflicting county or state laws. Instances where local and state policies collide can trigger harmful effects, including the overrepresentation in jails of young adults, especially young adults of color and with mental health or substance abuse issues.  In response to these challenges, NLC will work with the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to form and support teams of city, county and state leaders in aligning local and state policies toward reducing the use of jails for young adults.

Here are just four of the many examples where misaligned policies can negatively affect public safety.

  • State policies terminating rather than suspending Medicaid when an individual is booked into jail can leave young adults with mental illness or substance abuse issues without health care coverage and lead to increased recidivism rates.
  • Overly broad or generic state and local laws restricting access to education and employment for people with criminal records can impose unintended lifelong barriers to earn a living for young adults just starting their careers.
  • Failure to reinvest savings from closing state and local correctional facilities leaves communities in need of funding for supportive services that improve public safety and provide alternatives to jail.
  • State efforts to reduce the prison population may put more pressure on local jails if counties and cities fail to build mechanisms like pretrial risk assessments and pre-arrest diversion that can create complimentary reductions in the jail population.

NLC and NACo will competitively select up to five diverse city-county teams to join legislators from their state to receive technical assistance toward aligning these and similar policies to improve public safety and reduce the overuse of jails, especially for young adults.

Access the full Request for Proposals for more information and the application. The deadline for city-county teams to submit proposals is February 28 at 5:00PM EST.  For more information, contact Laura Furr, Program Manager for Justice Reform and Youth Engagement at

NLC, NACo, and NCSL offer this initiative thanks to the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

laura_furr_125x150-e1516724821636.jpg About the authors: Laura E. Furr is the program manager for justice reform and youth engagement in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Laura on Twitter at @laura_furr or reach her at


tarad_edited-e1516724844259.jpgTara Dhanraj is a Senior Associate for Justice Reform at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.